I was looking for a fun topic for this political comedy column and then I found it: experts are saying the US is in a prolonged era of political violence! That’s fun, right? (If you like this, you’ll love my kid's TV show idea where we put animals down!).
According to ACLED, political violence rose worldwide by 27% from 2021-22, and a Reuters analysis shows that politically motivated violence is at a half-century high in the US. My theory? Video games!
It’s no coincidence that such behavior was only greater in the 70s at the dawn of the menacing figure: Pacman! Only a dirty, anarchist hippie would gobble pills till he saw ghosts and attempt to escape the black void of a maze that is society.
But if we look at the US data, maybe there are some answers to our polarized worldwide problems.
Reuter’s report suggests that while rates were higher in the 60s-70s, that violence was more property damage by left-wing extremists, perhaps inspired by the Beatles love song, "I wanna hold your hand (grenade)". In contrast, this new wave is more right-wing assaults on people. In my mind, the attacks on property indicate that generation’s lack of faith in the system, while today’s, on people, sadly echo a lack of faith in humanity itself.
In just the past few years, US right-wing extremists have had gunfights with the FBI, attempted the kidnapping of Michigan’s Governor and US capital insurrection, hospitalized a congresswoman’s husband, attacked city power grids and constantly threatened Trump’s perceived political enemies like Biden, government agencies, judges, lawyers and even jury members.
The fact that so many have decided to "make America great again" by attacking Americans and its government reminds me of my cancer charity event where I only served cigarettes dipped in plutonium.
Of course, right-wing leaders’ and media figures’ frothing rhetoric seem to play a big part. In a recent Trump interview alone he called democrats "animals" who "hate the country" and his interviewer implied democrats might "kill him".
This over-the-top, performative dialogue seems to have one aim: dehumanization of the enemy. By dehumanizing their political rivals they can secure control of their audience. It’s ironic for dehumanization to be the tactic of someone who so resembles a pumpkin in a toupee.
As much as my instinct is to blame this solely on the right-wing, it doesn’t feel like it tells the entire story. When Trump was coming to prominence in 2016 many of his supporters voiced feeling disregarded by the system and talked down to by "liberal elites". The then democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton responded to Trump’s rise by calling half of his supporters "deplorables" and "irredeemable". She dehumanized them, and much of the media did the same. This only reinforced their concerns and gave room for Trump to cut his audience off from that media entirely. "See! They do think you’re idiots. I’m the only one on your side." Dehumanization only helps the inhuman, so if we play this game we will soon be ruled by pumpkin overlords.
My feeling is that the only way to stop the world’s growing problems of political violence is to stop its breeding ground: the "us and them" mentality that severs communication. The only way to stop dehumanization is through humanization. Maybe I have a hippie heart, but I think the only way things get better is to swallow our pride (and maybe some pills), hug our enemy and get back to something more productive like… destroying property.